The Huntsman: Winter’s War

By: Kevin Jordan

Read before you write.

Following the screening of The Hunstman: Winter’s War was a Q&A session that I already wrote about.  In honor of that event, let’s do Q&A for this review.

Q: I heard a rumor that you and a couple friends are starting a podcast where you fix movies.  Is that true?

A: Indeed.  The idea sprung up prior to a screening of Batman v Superman, where my friend and I discussed how easy it would be to fix Man of Steel to make it, at the very least, not so dumb.

Q: So your first episode will be Man of Steel?

A: Nope.  We’re going with Snow White and the Huntsman, but we’ll be doing Man of Steel soon enough.

Q: I see what you did there.  You created an excuse to rewatch Snow White and the Huntsman so nobody would think you were weird for rewatching Snow White and the Huntsman.  There isn’t really a podcast, is there?

A: Yes, seriously, there is.

Q: Well…how about that?  So, what did you learn?

A: I learned that writers not writing for the Marvel Cinematic Universe don’t bother to read screenplays of predecessors to sequels or even watch the movies.

Q: Do tell.

A: Are you okay with SPOILERS?

Q: Absolutely.  Continue.

A: Ravenna (Charlize Theron) is trapped in the mirror and her sister inadvertently lets her out.

Q: Do you mean the same Ravenna that dies at the end of the first film?  The same woman who shrivels up into a desiccated corpse on the floor?  That Ravenna?

A: The very same.

Q: *Sigh*

A: I know.  There is no explanation whatsoever as to how she ended up in the mirror.  The fun part of that is during the Q&A, Theron said she didn’t think it was contrived how they brought Ravenna back to life.

Q: Isn’t that kind of the definition of contrived?

A: Yes, but if you read my full Q&A write-up, Theron more than made up for it.

Q: Fair enough.  What else didn’t they bother learning from the first film?

A: Remember the scene in the first film where Ravenna’s brother tells the Huntsman (Chris Hemsworth) how he killed the Huntsman’s wife?

Q: Not really.

A: Well, he did.  Anyway, not only is that retconned in the sequel, but she’s not even dead.  The queen’s sister, Freya (Emily Blunt), tricks him into thinking she’s dead.  Sure, he believes the lie for seven years, which covers the events of the first film, but doesn’t explain Ravenna’s brother reminiscing her death.

Q: Fair enough.  So, what’s this movie about, anyway?

A: It starts off pre-Snow White events, showing Ravenna killing one of her previous husbands/kings via chess board.  Freya…

Q: Wait – death by chess board?  Like, she murders him by hitting him with a chess board?  That’s oddly specific.

A: Actually, no.  She’s placed a spell on the game they are playing that literally kills him when she puts him in checkmate.  Stop interrupting.

Q: Sorry.

A: Anyway, Freya is there later and they discuss how Freya’s powers haven’t surfaced yet and how love sucks.  This was the strange way they segued into Freya’s lover allegedly burning their child to death, which causes Freya’s powers – control of all things ice and cold – to explode out of her.

Q: So she’s Elsa?  HAHAHAHA.

A: I didn’t even think of that.  Nice work.

Q: And was anyone in the theater surprised by the obvious – that it will be revealed Ravenna actually killed the baby?

A: Of course not.  She might as well have worn a sign admitting as much.

Q: You still haven’t told me what this movie’s about.

A: Good point.  Freya becomes the ice queen of the north and takes over kingdom after kingdom.  After each conquest, she takes all the captured children, raises them to be soldiers (referring to them as her huntsman) and tells them that her only rule is that love is forbidden.  Of course, her two best warriors – Sara (Jessica Chastain) and Eric (Hemsworth) – fall in love.  Freya finds out about it and tricks Eric into thinking Sara is dead and tricks Sara into thinking Eric abandons her after making the two of them fight other huntsman.  Seven years later, King William (Sam Claflin) asks Eric to recover the magic mirror before Freya gets it and take it to a special place where its power cannot be used.

Q: There seems to be a lot going on in that paragraph and none of it is the plot.  Why don’t you try again?

A: Brighton must stop Freya from invading Snow White’s kingdom.

Q: Better.  So, why does she need the mirror?  She’s a super powerful ice wizard and the only power the mirror has (that we know of) is the ability to pick People Magazine’s most beautiful woman.

A: I have no idea why she wants it.  It’s one of the most blatant MacGuffin’s in the history of cinema, but without it, they can’t shoehorn Ravenna back into the movie, which in turn allows them to redeem Freya at the end.

Q: Couldn’t they have just made Freya evil from start to finish?

A: This movie is from the same people who brought us Maleficent.

Q: Got it.  How about you wrap this up in the way I know you’re dying to use – how would you fix this movie?

A: It’s about time.  Here goes – I would remove the mirror altogether and go all in on an evil ice queen; no more of this garbage where the bad guy has to start off good or be misunderstood.  She’s an ICE QUEEN.  I’d have Eric and Sara learn about the fake-out at the end of the film.  That way, we can still have the betrayal moment in the woods, but it makes more sense.  And, instead of everyone chasing the Magic MacGuffin, let’s just have them defend the kingdom from the ICE QUEEN.  We conclude with the climactic fight scene where Sara learns of the fake-out and turns on Freya.  Maybe the two lovers die, maybe one of them dies, maybe neither of them dies, but they take down Freya and save the realm.

Q: Nice.  So, you must have hated this movie.

A: Actually, no.

Q: Wait – what?

A: If you can ignore all the side stories of this film and incongruity with the first film, it’s actually a decent fantasy quest movie, despite the MacGuffin.  The actors and characters are all good, comic relief was added to lighten the tone (and it worked very well), the visuals were splendid, and, overall, it was more entertaining than the first movie.

Q: It was Emily Blunt, wasn’t it?

A: I’ve got a podcast to go prep for.

Rating: Ask for half your money back.  At the very least, you’ll be glad Kristen Stewart doesn’t make an appearance.

The Huntsman: Winter’s War QA session

If you have been reading my reviews for a while, you know that I sometimes present my review in a Q&A format.  What you are about to read is not me pretending to interview another me or inventing an imaginary Q&A session with actors, but an honest, actual Q&A session with Jessica Chastain, Chris Hemsworth, and Charlize Theron and hosted by some guy whose name I forgot to write down.  While I won’t be presenting it as a straight Q&A (I have commentary of my own mixed in), I wanted you to know that I did not make up any of this.  This session followed an advanced screening of The Huntsman: Winter’s War and was shown live across the screens of about a dozen Alamo Drafthouses.

(Note: I will be paraphrasing all of the questions and answers as I did not record the session, but did take notes.  Also, I will be referring to the interviewer as Anonymous Guy or AG.  Sorry, AG.)

My immediate impression of this session was both disappointment and satisfaction.  It was disappointing because I assumed the audience was going to get to ask the actors some questions, even audience members in different states, but this did not happen.  I mean, it is 2016 and we all know how to use Skype.  Plus, isn’t that the point of having the session in an actual theater with actual human moviegoers?  Apparently not.  The host took one single question that was asked via Twitter and again, he could literal smell the breaths of people in the audience right in front of him.  I’ll give you one guess as to what that extremely predictable question was.  You are correct.

Twitter: What was your favorite scene in the movie?

Chastain: The scene where we all get caught up in the net.  It was very difficult to keep a straight face because the dwarves were improvising a lot and it was hilarious.

Theron: I was jealous of the other actors because they had many more scenes than me.  At one point, Emily (Blunt) got to ride in on a polar bear and I thought – where’s my animal mount?

I liked the answers, but when the interviewer moved on, I wondered the same thing you are now wondering – what was Hemsworth’s answer?  Unfortunately for Hemsworth and us, that wasn’t the only time the interviewer skipped/ignored him.  We’ll come back to this because this happened toward the end of the session.  Aside from that, the actors were surprisingly candid (Theron dropped an F-bomb at one point) and made the session worth listening to.

Here was the rest of the session (my comments italicized):

AG to Charlize: “This is the first time you’ve reprised a role.  How did you feel about it?”

Theron: “I was flattered, but had my reservations because my character died in the first film.  I was concerned that the way they brought her back would be contrived, but after reading the script I didn’t think it was contrived at all.  This was probably my greatest job because the other actors are so great.”

I love that she was worried about contrivances, but I have to disagree with her – it was very contrived.   You’ll just have to read my actual review for the explanation because I’m trying to keep this SPOILER free.

AG: Tell us about the training.

Chastain: The stunts were very challenging.  It was a lot of fun after doing all the depressing movies that I’ve done.  Also, Chris is obnoxiously tall and muscular.

The audience loved that last bit and Chris was very humble about it.  Not even a flex for all the ladies.

Theron on the chess scene: I don’t know anything about chess and we had to do many retakes.

AG to Theron: Why do you like “bad” roles?

Theron: You get to do stuff that you don’t get to do in contemporary films.

I think Theron is a great villain, but has yet to be given a truly well-written one to portray.

AG: Who was the most uncomfortable during the “hot tub” scene?

The hot tub scene features Chastain and Hemsworth in a hot springs making out.  The movie’s PG-13.  Sorry.

Theron: The director probably…”Jessica has amazing tits.”

I don’t remember what she said during the … for obvious reasons.  And yes, that is the one direct quote I’m giving because it was awesome.  Jessica turned a shade of red trademarked by Coca Cola and Theron continued to elaborate.  When AG tried to go to Hemsworth for the next question, Hemsworth (correctly) stated that the audience wanted to hear more about Jessica’s boobs.  I told you this session was worth staying for.

On the comedic scenes with Hemsworth, the ladies said he added more fun and humor and that they were allowed to inject their own humor.

This is always a question we want to know because some scenes just feel improvised.  It’s also where the blooper reels get their filler and, often, funniest stuff.

Theron on the costumes: Sets and costumes make it easier to perform because they help the actor get into character.  Of course, we women bitched to each other constantly about the weight of the dresses and having to walk up stairs in them for multiple takes.  The costume designer (Colleen Atwood) didn’t care because she’s been nominated for ten Oscars and “you’ll wear what I tell you to wear.”

I sympathize with the women because I think some of the dresses were solid metal.

The last question of the night, following the “most fun scene” question I already told you about, was what the actors were doing next.  I don’t remember what Chastain said and Theron said she is doing Fast and Furious 8, to which I shook my head.  Then AG thanked everybody and the actors and I sat there wondering how he could continue to skip Chris Hemsworth on these questions.  He’s sitting right next to you, AG and he’s not a small guy.

If I was rating this interview, I’d say it was worth your money unless you were only there for Hemsworth.  While the questions were predictable, they at least led to some interesting insight and fun answers and it was clear the actors enjoyed making the movie.  And, like I said, the candidness of Theron was something to behold; a refreshing reminder that these actors are red-blooded people just like us.  The only thing that could have made this session better, aside from some questions from the audience, was hearing what Emily Blunt thought of Chastain’s tits.  Apparently, they’re amazing.